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“A Strategy With A Shelf Life”: Rubio Calls Clinton A ‘Liar’, But He Can’t Back Up The Attack

Stylistically, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) soared in this week’s debate for Republican presidential candidates. Substantively, however, it was a very different story.

Responding to questions about his messy personal finances, for example, Rubio simply denied reality. Pressed on the effects of his far-right tax plan, Rubio ran into similar problems.

But one of the more jarring moments of the debate came when the Florida senator went after Hillary Clinton, complaining about her recent appearance at his party’s Benghazi Committee hearing. From the transcript:

“She spent over a week telling the families of those victims and the American people that it was because of a video. And yet the mainstream media is going around saying it was the greatest week in Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

“It was the week she got exposed as a liar. It was the week that she got exposed as a liar.”

This is generally the kind of rhetoric one might expect from Louie Gohmert, Steve King, or some other House GOP extremist, not a senator seeking the nation’s highest office.

But more important is the fact when a national candidate goes after a rival with the word “liar,” he’d better be able to back it up – and in this case, Rubio can’t. The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler fact-checked the senator’s attack and found “he does not have enough evidence” to back up his attack.

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent emphasized a key detail: “Early intelligence on what caused the attacks was conflicting and erroneous, with some intel concluding the attacks had occurred in the context of the protests, and other intel concluding they were terrorism. Clinton’s private statements about terrorism did not reflect certainty; they tracked with information that was coming in at the time; the administration’s public suggestions about the video also tracked with contradictory information. The Republican-led probes have also concluded this — including one signed by Rubio, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.”

But Rubio casually threw around the word “liar” anyway, probably because (a) he assumes far-right activists will enjoy the red meat; and (b) the senator figures he can get away with it.

The GOP candidate should realize, though, that throwing around false attacks, and counting on voters to ignore fact-checking pieces later, is a strategy with a shelf life. Mitt Romney tried the same thing, and it didn’t work out especially well for him.

For that matter, Rubio may think he can throw around falsehoods with impunity now, but I have a hunch Hillary Clinton might have some effective pushback should these two meet next fall.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 30, 2015

November 1, 2015 Posted by | GOP Primary Debates, Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio | , , , , , | 4 Comments

“CNBC Is The Perfect Scapegoat For The GOP’s 2016 Problems”: Candidates Who Blow It In A Debate Have Only Themselves To Blame

The third GOP presidential debate, held Wednesday evening in Colorado, revealed two key truths: The political media has declared war on several Republican candidates, and the candidates have declared war on the political media.

The GOP’s gripes against the media are legion. Over the past several election cycles, they have reached a fever pitch, with the presidential debates largely to blame. The problem, from a Republican standpoint, was epitomized by Candy Crowley’s intervention on behalf of President Obama during his crucial second debate with Mitt Romney in 2012. Reeling from a limp and lackluster performance the first time around, Obama needed to beat Romney on foreign policy; Crowley upended Romney’s plans by jumping into their exchange on the administration’s shifting talking points around the Benghazi attack, and essentially siding with Obama.

Long critical of the “lamestream media,” as Sarah Palin once called it, conservatives reserve a particular ire for debate moderators, who do, after all, command an outsized ability to influence how presidential candidates perform and are perceived.

So when Ted Cruz crushed the CNBC moderators Wednesday night, the resulting applause — in the studio and across the conservative internet — was not particularly surprising. The other candidates all quickly caught on. Chris Christie jumped at the chance to wryly cry rude. Donald Trump hooked his closing argument around the way he muscled the network into improving the debate’s format. Even Bush campaign manager Danny Diaz got into the act, railing against a CNBC producer about the distribution of speaking time. (Bush came in last.)

But the debate-bashing crescendo came courtesy of Ben Carson, whose own campaign manager, Barry Bennett, said he detests the traditional format and wants to rally the field to demand an anti-lamestream reboot. “There’s not enough time to talk about your plans,” Bennett griped. “There’s no presentation. It’s just a slugfest. All we do is change moderators. And the trendline is horrific. So I think there needs to be wholesale change here.”

Those critiques are legit. Whether you’re a beltway insider or just a Twitter junkie, you know well that debate season is a time for gallows humor, morbid drinking games, and existential boredom among the political media itself.

Embittered conservatives might say that suggests how endemic the cynicism and hypocrisy of that crowd has become. But from the standpoint of a sympathetic political writer, it’s not that simple.

The fact is that quite often, candidates who blow it in a debate have only themselves to blame. In part, that’s because the media just likes to reward winners. Whether it’s Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, or Mitt Romney in his first showdown with Obama, good performances get good press. In larger part, it’s because the media loves to punish losers. Candidates who do okay but turn off the media — like Trump — don’t pay much of a price in the horserace. Candidates who have a rotten debate night — like Bush — do. And when they do, it’s almost never because of a Crowley-esque act of butting in. It’s because the debate is a crucible, however clumsy, where a candidate’s behind-the-scenes struggles are revealed.

Consider Jeb Bush’s one big mistake last night, the one that defined the evening, cemented the narrative, and possibly sank his campaign. Looking for an opportunity to deliver a canned attack on Rubio’s spotty Senate attendance record — a talking point his campaign has been stressing in recent days — Bush let loose: “When you signed up for this, this was a six-year term and you should be showing up to work. I mean literally, the Senate, what is it, a French work week? You get like three days where you have to show up. You can campaign or just resign and let somebody else take the job.” With Rubio flush from his own knock on the debate moderators, Bush’s dig was both weak and poorly timed — and it resulted in this killer rejoinder: “I don’t remember you ever complaining about John McCain’s vote record; the only reason you’re doing it now is because we’re running for the same position and someone has convinced you that it’s going to help you,” Rubio said.

Game, set, match. That one exchange led everyone from The Weekly Standard‘s Jonathan Last to Slate‘s Jamelle Bouie to pronounce Bush politically dead. A judgment that harsh, across that broad a political spectrum, doesn’t indicate a new low for D.C.’s smug and jaded smart set. It doesn’t discredit today’s (admittedly dumb) debate format. And it doesn’t indict the media elite literally running the show. It reveals that Jeb Bush couldn’t prevent a horrendously unforced error — at this stage, proof of far bigger problems than bad timing or flimsy opposition research.

For all their problems, the debates — and those who run them — can only do so much damage to Republican candidates onstage. On debate night, the real lamestream doesn’t run through the political media, but through campaigns that could use some wholesale change of their own.


By: James Poulos, The Week, October 29, 2015

November 1, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Primary Debates, Mainstream Media | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Living The Realities Of Supply-Side Economic Failures”: Debate Questions Naturally Lean Left Because Mainstream Voters And Reality Do

Timothy Carney at the Washington Examiner wrote a piece getting a decent amount of attention today proclaiming that liberal media bias exists and that it affected the CNBC debate. Unlike most of bloviating on the topic from the right, Carney actually adduces evidence for his point of view. After the usual blather about how most journalists lean Democratic (most professionals in almost every field requiring professional education do, which should tell conservatives something), he does something useful by illustrating what a debate from a conservative perspective might look like:

They could have asked Kasich: “Why did you increase Medicaid under Obamacare in Ohio?” They could have asked Trump, “How can eminent domain for corporate gain be squared with free-enterprise views?” They could have asked Rubio about sugar subsidies, or Cruz if his “defund Obamacare” fight did any good, or Jeb Bush about his support for more immigration. They could have asked Christie about his liberal court appointments.

They instead asked for price controls and regulations, they asked about the social compact in entitlement spendings, they asked why not to support budget-busting deals. Most questions were either non-ideological, and many were from a liberal perspective. When they asked about marijuana legalization it wasn’t from an anti-drug perspective or a libertarian perspective, but a “more government revenue” perspective.

OK fine, but here’s the problem with that: most voters don’t care about those things, or they’re couched in a way that would only reinforce the hostility of mainstream voters. Any moderator that asked a GOP candidate like Kasich why they increased Medicaid as though that were a bad thing, would be inviting all the candidates to lay into him and provide endless soundbites for Democrats in a general election. Because most voters like Medicaid expansion when it’s explained to them. Most voters don’t give a damn about “eminent domain for corporate gain”–not even conservative ones. Corn and sugar subsidies, while important public policy problems that expose crony capitalism and contradictions in conservative ideology, don’t even begin to rate as top issues on the minds of voters or remotely interesting. Nor would inviting other candidates to attack subsidies for farmers be good politics, either to please donors or the public at large. Ted Cruz was asked about his government shutdown tactics, and the question was such a landmine for him that he dodged the question entirely. Meanwhile, immigration has been a big debate question for GOP candidates and Jeb Bush in particular: Bush’s support for immigration reform is the biggest reason for his poor performance in the polls, and the biggest reason for Donald Trump’s ascendance. Asking about immigration reform from a hostile, conservative point of view would only serve to give Trump and Cruz more ammunition, and further alienate Hispanic voters in the general election.

By contrast, taxes and budgets really matter. Education matters. Healthcare matters. Jobs matter. The fact that the public has decidedly liberal positions on those issues, and that the lived reality of supply-side economic failures and government healthcare successes disadvantages conservative ideology, isn’t the fault of debate moderators. It’s the fault of conservative ideology, which should in theory be forced to adjust just as certain aspects of liberalism had to during the 1970s.

These are also the issues on which the Republican nominee will be tested come the general election. Democratic candidates will be forced to answer for issues on which voters have skepticism of liberal positions, from guns to foreign policy to the welfare state–and challenging questions on those issues are consistently asked during Democratic debates, nor are they prejudicial. Republicans are likewise expected to answer for their unpopular positions, because they’ll be forced to defend them in the general election.

The fact that Republicans have more unpopular positions and a weaker track record of success isn’t the fault of debate moderators. It’s the fault of Republican candidates and their ideology.


By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 31, 2015

November 1, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, GOP Voters, Supply Side Economics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Pimping Pseudo-Science”: Carson Denies Obvious Ties To Controversial Supplement Maker

At the CNBC debate, Ben Carson tried to argue that he never had anything to do with an extraordinarily shady supplement company.

That is nonsense. The truth is that Carson had a years-long relationship with Mannatech—a company that pimps pseudoscience and allegedly engaged in unethical marketing practices.

Jim Geraghty broke this story months ago at National Review. Mannatech is a supplement company that sells so-called glyconutrients. Its representatives have suggested the product can treat autism, cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis. Spoiler: “Glyconutrients” do not cure cancer, and no credible researcher or doctor says they do.

In fact, if Carson had glanced at the company’s Wikipedia page, he would have seen that one top glycobologist said these “glyconutrients” have no identifiable impact on the human body besides making you pass more gas. Seriously.

The state of Texas sued the company, which settled in 2009 by paying $4 million to Texas customers, promising that its representatives would stop saying its products could “cure, treat, mitigate or prevent any disease.” The company didn’t admit to any wrongdoing.

When Geraghty reached out to Mannatech about their relationship with Carson, spokesman Mike Crouch said this: “We appreciate his support and value his positive feedback as a satisfied customer.”

But Mannatech doesn’t just sell bad medicine. At least one lawsuit alleged it uses astonishingly unethical marketing practices to do so. In 2004, a mother sued after trying to use the company’s products to help her 3-year-old son, who suffered from Tay-Sachs disease. The suit alleged that the company showed naked pictures of the boy—which his mother said she shared with representatives of the company in confidence—to suggest to hundreds of seminar attendees as evidence that its products worked. The worst part? The son died while using Mannatech supplements, according to the suit. The company confidentially settled that suit in 2005 for $750,000.

Anyway, Carson addressed at least three of the company’s annual conferences, according to National Review. His image appeared on its website’s homepage. He praised its fart-inducing glyconutrients on PBS. And as recently as last year, he suggested the company had tapped into God’s secrets for good health.

“The wonderful thing about a company like Mannatech is that they recognize that when God made us, He gave us the right fuel,” Carson said in a video touting the company’s products.

“Many of the natural things are not included in our diet,” he continued. “Basically what the company is doing is trying to find a way to restore natural diet as a medicine or as a mechanism for maintaining health.”

As part of his characteristically lackluster debate performance, Carson tried to distance himself from Mannatech on Wednesday night when a CNBC moderator pressed him on that relationship.

“I didn’t have an involvement with them, that’s total propaganda,” he said, betraying a total misunderstanding of what the word “propaganda” means. “What happens in our society, total propaganda. I did a couple of speeches for them, just for other people, they were paid speeches. It is absolutely absurd to say that I had any kind of relationship with them. Do I take the product? Yes. I think it’s a good product.”

To be fair, it is a good product—if you like to fart.

By the way, this isn’t the first time Carson has touted pseudoscientific nonsense on the presidential debate stage. At the last debate, he touted the debunked idea that parents should disregard the Centers for Disease Control’s recommended vaccine schedule and “space out” their children’s vaccinations. As The Daily Beast detailed, that suggestion is a species of anti-vax trutherism. It’s less pernicious than full-on vaccines-cause-autism trutherism, but it is trutherism nonetheless. “Spacing out” your kids’ vaccines has one effect, and one effect only: increasing the amount of time your kids are vulnerable to the diseases from which those vaccines inoculate them.


By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, October 28, 2015

November 1, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Nutritional Supplements, Science | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Festival Of Populist Passion”: Republicans Displayed Their Passion For The Little Guy At Wednesday’s Debate. It Was A Total Scam

If you knew absolutely nothing about American politics and tuned into the Republican presidential debate Wednesday night, you would have come away convinced that the GOP is the party of the little guy, the party that wants to advocate for low-wage workers, middle-class families, and those who are struggling. And the wealthy? Screw those guys — Republicans can’t stand them. If somebody told you that this party’s last presidential nominee got in a heap of trouble for contemptuously saying that 47 percent of Americans are lazy leeches who just want to live off government handouts while the morally upstanding wealthy do all the work, you’d respond, “Surely you must be mistaken.”

In case you didn’t tune in to this festival of populist passion, here are a few of the highlights:

Like many of the candidates, Ted Cruz has a flat tax plan, which because it eliminates tax progressivity would entail huge tax cuts for the wealthy. He described it by saying, “The billionaire and the working man, no hedge fund manager pays less than his secretary.”

In the course of arguing (from what I could tell) that all taxation is theft, Mike Huckabee said, “This is for the guy, you know, who owns a landscaping business out there. If somebody’s already stolen money from you, are you going to give them more?”

Carly Fiorina, a former corporate CEO whose biggest accomplishment was the disastrous merger between HP and Compaq, and who is worth tens of millions of dollars, railed against corporate mergers and the wealthy. “Big and powerful use big and powerful government to their advantage,” she said. “It’s why you see Walgreens buying Rite Aid. It’s why you see the pharmaceuticals getting together. It’s you see the health insurance companies getting together. It’s why you see the banks consolidating. And meanwhile, small businesses are getting crushed….Big government favors the big, the powerful, the wealthy, and the well-connected, and crushes the small and the powerless.”

Marco Rubio related, for the eight zillionth time, the fact that his father was a bartender and his mother was a maid. John Kasich showed why he isn’t in the top tier of candidates by failing to bring up the fact that his dad was a mailman.

Ted Cruz said, “The truth of the matter is, big government benefits the wealthy, it benefits the lobbyists, it benefits the giant corporations. And the people who are getting hammered are small businesses, it’s single moms, it’s Hispanics. That is who I’m fighting for.”

“Wall Street is doing great,” Cruz said later, and “today the top 1 percent earn a higher share of our income than any year since 1928,” while the Federal Reserve has apparently caused the price of hamburgers to skyrocket.

Rand Paul agreed that the Fed “causes income inequality.”

Ben Carson said that when it comes to regulations, “The reason that I hate them so much is because every single regulation costs in terms of goods and services. That cost gets passed on to the people. Now, who are the people who are hurt by that? It’s poor people and middle class. Doesn’t hurt rich people if their bar of soap goes up ten cents, but it hurts the poor and the middle class.”

“The simple fact is that my plan actually gives the middle class the greatest break,” said Jeb Bush.

As it happens, the truth is that Bush’s tax plan showers its biggest benefits on the wealthy, not the middle class, both in percentage terms and in absolute terms. And this is true of all the tax plans that have been released by the Republican candidates so far. They all either use a flat tax, which by definition cuts the taxes of the wealthy, or they reduce income taxes for the wealthy and eliminate other taxes the wealthy pay; for instance, Marco Rubio would completely eliminate both capital gains taxes and inheritance taxes. As Doyle McManus of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “among the proposals with real detail, there’s a rough consensus, and it comes down to this: lower taxes for everybody, but especially for the wealthy.”

Republicans would have a couple of responses to this objection. The first is that if you’re going to cut everyone’s taxes, of course the wealthy will benefit more, because they pay at higher rates and their incomes are higher. As Rubio himself said during the debate, “5 percent of a million is a lot more than 5 percent of a thousand. So yeah, someone who makes more money, numerically, it’s going to be higher.” But there’s no requirement that if you’re going to cut taxes you have to give everyone the same percentage reduction.

The second response Republicans have is that their tax plans, combined with eliminating regulations, will super-charge the economy to such a degree that people in the poor and middle class will benefit tremendously. There’s a name for that idea: trickle-down economics.

And it isn’t like we’ve never tried this before. You may remember a guy named George W. Bush, who was president not that long ago. He instituted a program pretty much exactly like what today’s Republican candidates propose: large tax cuts targeted mostly at the wealthy combined with slashing regulations. And what happened? Anemic growth, culminating in the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression. If Republicans are right, how could such a thing have happened?

If you ask them, they’ll reply that Bush wasn’t true to conservative economic orthodoxy because he didn’t cut the size of government. But if that’s your explanation for why his economic record was so poor, then you’re saying that neither cutting taxes nor cutting regulations would make much of a difference; all that matters is the size of government.

But then how could they explain the Clinton years, when the economy added 22 million jobs despite the fact that taxes went up, regulations increased, and government grew? It’s a real head-scratcher.

Let me suggest something shocking: The Republican presidential candidates do not actually want to cut regulations, slash safety net programs (which didn’t come up in the debate), and eliminate regulations on corporations because of their deep and abiding concern for the poor and middle class.

Some things don’t change in American politics, one of which is that conservatives believe that making life easier for the wealthy and corporations is not just a good idea in practical terms but also a moral imperative. It’s the latter that makes the former less important. Even when those policies fail to deliver us all to the economic Shangri-La conservatives promise, they do not lose faith in the policies’ righteousness.

But other things do change. Right now we’re in a time of economic anxiety, when inequality and stagnant wages have made trickle-down economics particularly unappealing. So if you aren’t going to offer something different than what you have before, the next best thing is to clothe it in populist rhetoric. It remains to be seen whether anyone will buy it.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Cintributor, The Week, October 29, 2015

November 1, 2015 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Populism, Trickle Down Economics | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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